The first Nest Learning Thermostat was released in 2011 to critical acclaim. And now, the third generation of the smart device has been released, and it looks better than ever.
But does the Nest thermostat still have what it takes to lead the pack when it comes to the smart home?
After all, a lot has changed since 2011. The Nest Learning Thermostat was joined by the Nest Protect smoke detector, while competition began to heat up.
Google (GOOG, GOOGL) bought Nest Labs and began assembling a smart home hardware empire, soon adding Dropcam to the Nest division. Apple (AAPL) waded in with the introduction of its HomeKit platform, then turfed Nest from its stores.
Today, home heating and cooling giant Honeywell (HON) offers a full line of smart thermostats — including a voice-controlled version — while startups like Ecobee try to be the next Nest Labs.
Does the third generation of Nest thermostat have what it takes to stay on top in this competitive environment?
Read on in our Nest review to find out.
Nest Thermostat Review: Bigger and Better
Thermostats used to be something you hid in a corner of the room where you wouldn’t have to see it — the smaller and less obtrusive, the better.
The original Nest Learning Thermostat disrupted that pattern of behavior completely.
With the Nest thermostat, you wanted to see it. The bright LED display and attractive, round form factor with its gleaming stainless steel case were made to show off, not hide.
It seems as though smart thermostats are following the trail blazed by smartphones — getting bigger. The third generation Nest thermostat is thinner than previous versions, but the display is bigger and sharper.
That display can now be used to display the time as well, a trick the first two models didn’t have.
The new Nest Learning Thermostat also benefits from larger icons and some transitional animations to add visual interest.
Nest Thermostat Review: Functional Improvements
Of course the new Nest thermostat doesn’t sport just cosmetic upgrades — it also has improved functionality.
For example, a new “Farsight” distance sensor activates the display from across the room, instead of having to be within a few feet.
Nest has incorporated a new wireless connectivity option in Bluetooth LE, although that seems to be for future use.
The device also now packs 10 temperature sensors for improved accuracy. In a new safety feature, if the Nest thermostat detects a pattern of your furnace shutting off that might indicate a problem with it overheating, it sends a notification, suggesting you might want to consider a maintenance call.
Nest says the ‘learning’ part of this learning thermostat is also improved, making your home more comfortable and energy-efficient than before.
Nest Thermostat Review: Specs
- 2.08-inch diameter, 480 x 480 pixel, 24-bit color LCD display (229 ppi)
- 512 MB RAM
- Sensors: temperature (x10), humidity, near- and far-field activity, ambient light
- Built-in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Wireless Interconnect, Bluetooth Low Energy
- Stainless steel case
- Assembled size (including base): 3.3-inches diameter, 1.21-inches tall
- Includes optional trim kit and mounting screws
- Compatible with 95% of 24V heating and cooling systems
- Requires Wi-Fi internet connection, free iOS, Android, Windows or OS X app
- MSRP $249
Nest Thermostat Review: Conclusion
With the ecosystem of smart, connected products that Google’s Nest division is building, the Nest Learning Thermostat remains a top choice.
Nest claims this device has saved millions of consumers over 4 billion kWh of energy since 2011, knocking 10-12% off their heating bills and 15% off the cost of cooling their homes.
The new third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat may not be a big enough technological and visual leap to convince owners of earlier devices to fork out another $249 for an upgrade.
However, when it comes to home automation, Nest remains the horse to beat.
It has adopter numbers on its side, retail distribution, utility partnerships, proven expertise and a growing line-up of compatible products — and having Google backing it means less risk of new standards or big competitors leaving the technology behind (always a risk when investing in new hardware from start-ups).
For anyone who is about to start adding smart technology to their home, the latest Nest Learning Thermostat remains an easy pick for a proven starting point.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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